The engine in Yamamoto-san's R34 feels smooth and refined at low rpm, pulling strongly from as low as 2,000 rpm all the time sounding refined and somewhat muffled. But needless to say all hell breaks loose when he steps on the throttle. Instantly the car takes on a totally different persona, the sound intensifying as the external wastegate begins to scream. From 5,000 rpm to 8,000 rpm the RB pulls unrelentingly, only the gearshifts momentarily pausing the acceleration. It's around 11 pm and we're travelling on a strip of brand-new, three-laned highway that will eventually connect Kyoto to the city of Osaka... it's also completely deserted. Yamamoto-san takes full advantage of this and uses the available space to his advantage, tackling wide-sweeping corners at around 260 km/h (+160mph) as we hang on for dear life. We get a full sample of the car's capabilities as Yamamoto-san takes 5th gear close to the limiter and the speedometer's needle goes well past 280 km/h (+170mph), at which point the highway ends and we head back to the shop on normal roads. Though mild as it may appear, this R34 is far from it.
It's not every day that you see modified versions of this "comfort-spec" of the Skyline, which is probably what makes it so unique. Every angle of the car has been subtly tuned with top quality products and turned into one of the most impressive street cars we have had the pleasure to feature. Yamamoto-san entrusted his car to the guys at Phoenix Power, a shop known in JDM tuning circles as one of the best around for high-power and high-speed applications.
Located in the outskirts of Kyoto in the Kansai region of Japan, Yokoyama-san of Phoenix Power, over the last decade, has created some pretty stunning machinery, usually participating in the old 0-300 km/h competitions and drag races. They have pushed the limits of tuning on a variety of engines but their specialty has forever been the mighty RB26. The main aim of this build was to obtain a good balance between power and drivability, also keeping the car smooth and refined for everyday driving. After taking a very intense ride in this M-spec we can assure you they have more than successfully achieved this goal, as this smooth-riding R34 is a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, because once you get on the power the car seems to transform into a fire-breathing monster!
The most surprising thing has to be that the whole build was based around a stock engine, with only an HKS metal head gasket having been fitted as the only bottom-end modification, in order to take higher levels of boost. But bolt-ons were fair game. The first big one is a GReddy/Trust T78-29D, the smaller of the T78 range of top-mount single turbochargers. The reasoning behind this was rather simple; the smaller exhaust side of the 29D (over the 33D) would allow for an acceptable spool up with the stock 2.6L's capacity, not to mention better throttle response and stronger mid-range. The T78 is mounted on a Trust stainless steel exhaust manifold along with a Trust external wastegate, which has the job of controlling boost with the Blitz SBC-iD boost controller. A Trust front pipe and Mine's stainless steel exhaust combo does a great job of suppressing the louder frequencies up until around 4,000 rpm, but then rewarding every subsequent 1,000 rpm increment thereafter with a stunning 6-cylinder howl that mixes with the aggressive scream of the wastegate. This keeps the M-spec quiet and refined around town, but a totally different car when at full boost.
Phoenix Power is part of the "Record Holders 9" (RH9) club, the highest status a drag-oriented tuning shop can achieve in Japan. Member shops of RH9 have produced high quality products that use the RH9 name for years, and for Yamamoto-san's car, their own intercooler was chosen. The large core is perfect to accept the big volume of air the T78 flows at peak boost, efficiently cooling it before being sent towards intake. Phoenix Power also took care of fabricating the custom aluminum piping, which was polished to a mirror finish, just like the turbine and intake pipes. A High Octane Racing intake manifold was imported from Australia, an item designed to equalize airflow to each of the six cylinders for optimum A/F mixture. Not wishing to tune the car just for high-rpm power delivery meant that special thought needed to be given to the camshafts. The HKS V-Cam kit seemed to make the most sense, even if very pricey compared to your regular cam upgrade. Thanks to a variable duration on the intake (which can be varied by 30°), the engine can be made to deliver great low-rpm torque as well as high-end power, just what Yamamoto-san wanted from his car. After fine-tuning the A'PEXi Power FC on both the dyno and open road, Phoenix Power managed to pull a respectable 650hp at 7,600 rpm and a widespread of torque which peaks at 4,800 rpm with 65 kgm (470 lb-ft). To handle all of this twist the stock clutch was replaced with an ATS (Carbonetic) twin-plate carbon clutch, a very expensive item but one that guarantees both smooth operation and engagement.
With a great job done under the hood it was the handling and braking departments that were next on the cards. Sticking to the original plan of creating a comfortable car called for a set of dampers that were stiff enough for the occasional spirited drive, but compliant enough to be used on the street and cope with anything a regular car would have to deal with. An Aragosta Comfort suspension kit was chosen and set up with just enough lowering to make the car handle and of course, look good. The stock Brembo braking system may be fine for a standard BNR34 but with a 650 hp punch waiting to be unleashed meant a serious set of anchors were needed. Up front 6-pot Endless calipers bite down on 370 mm grooved 2-piece floating discs while the rear uses a slightly smaller set-up with 4-pot calipers, again from Endless. The brake calipers and center disc bell are finished in a custom order gold color, a very nice touch that matches the gold-like sand color of the M-spec's exterior. The Endless brakes just manage to squeeze inside the 19-inch BBM LM wheels, 10-inches wide all round.
Keeping the M-spec aesthetically low-key was a high priority for Yamamoto-san and the less attention the car attracts the better, so a simple NISMO aero kit was fitted. This is made up of a more aggressive front bumper with tons of openings to promote airflow, side skirts and underskirts for the rear bumper. Giving the car a GT-look are the NISMO LED rear taillights, almost identical to the ones used on the last BNR34's that raced in Super GT, as well as the extended carbon-fiber diffuser fins, helping keep the car stable at speed. The Recaro JC electrically adjustable seats feel great, comfortable and supportive, adding a touch of elegance to the interior. NISMO 320 km/h combination meters replace the factory 180 km/h ones, and to keep an eye on even more parameters via the LCD screen, a NISMO Ver.2 upgrade has been carried out to the Multi-Function Display unit.
For a car that is now ten years old, the BNR34 remains a very special ride, and with people like Yamamoto-san continuing to create crazy cars like this, it's no doubt we can't keep our eyes off these things. No matter how special the new generation of GT-Rs will end up becoming, these older Skylines will continue to captivate the minds of enthusiasts the world over.
Nissan Skyline GT-R BNR34
Owner Phoenix Power
Hometown Kyoto, Japan
Occupation Master Tuner
Engine 2.6L RB26DETT; HKS metal head gasket, twin intake pipe (polished), 720cc injectors, 280L/h in-tank fuel pump, oil cooler and V-Cam kit; GReddy/Trust exhaust manifold, T78-29D turbine (polished), racing radiator, external wastegate and front pipe; Mine's VX stainless steel exhaust system and carbon radiator shroud; high-capacity AFM; A'PEXi air filters; Phoenix Power custom intercooler piping kit (polished) and twin-tank oil catch cans; RH9 racing intercooler; High Octane Racing aluminum intake manifold; SARD fuel rail; Samco hoses; aluminum washer tank
Drivetrain ATS Twin-Plate carbon clutch and lightweight flywheel
Engine Management A'PEXi Power FC; Blitz SBC-iD boost controller
Footwork & Chassis Aragosta Comfort SPL adjustable suspension kit
Brakes Endless gold 6-pot front calipers & 2-piece 370mm slotted discs, gold 4-pot rear calipers & 2-piece slotted discs and CC-Rg brake pads
Wheels & Tires BBS LM-DBK 19x10'' (front & rear); Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08 275/30/R19 (front & rear)
Exterior NISMO front bumper, side skirts, rear skirts, B-pillar carbon garnish, carbon diffuser fins and GT LED rear lights
Interior Recaro Sports JC electrically adjustable leather seats; NISMO 320 km/h black-faced meter combination and Ver.2 MFD upgrade; RH9 carpet